Archive for October 27th, 2015|Daily archive page

Gentle exit

Bonnie Caldwell
June 6, 1937 – Oct. 27, 2015

bonnie in maine

“It’s the end of an era,” my brother said over the weekend.

“She never wanted to leave a party,” my sister said.

“We should not be surprised she’s doing it her way,” the activities director said.

“She’s my favorite dancer,” an activities staffer said with a big smile.

“She’s holding on for something,” a restorative aide said.

“You’re on this journey, and you’re the only one who can finish it,” a hospice nurse said.

“It was our privilege to take care of her,” nurse Bobbi said, with tears in her eyes.

“Today makes sense: One last Tuesday night gathering at dinnertime for the three of us,” Patrick said.

“I love you, and I know you loved me.” The first of my many goodbyes.

Stamina

At this moment, Mom is still breathing. But the breaths are “not life-sustaining,” according to the nurse who called this morning. I would have said the same things about her breaths yesterday, or even Sunday night. Her relative physical health seems to be sustaining her still, long after her brain turned against her.

Mozart is blaring from my phone. Jeff left his iPod here when he and Laura flew home yesterday, but its battery ran out overnight and I forgot to bring a charger.

The three of us got a lot done while they were here. More importantly, the prolonged time together strengthened our bond. In Mom’s room, we laughed a lot, selected photos for her service and shared memories, but also lamented her illness and had varying and unpredictable emotional responses to her imminent death. Lots of 3-way hugs, and a renewed sense of our love for each other. Agreements to leave Mom’s side and then an agreement to stick together when I had an unexpected moment of crisis late Sunday. I believed she would die that night, partly based on how she looked and under the influence of a hospice nurse who suspected she couldn’t survive the night. (No one else has spoken so definitively about Mom.) “I feel like I have to see it through,”  I said. “It’s my job.” Forty-five minutes later, we left. We needed rest for the day ahead, our only chance to work on funeral arrangements. Monday morning, she was still here. I got a call last evening that she had made a sudden transition. Patrick and I raced back here. An hour later, she had not changed. We returned home. And here she still is this morning, surprising her entire care team.

Those who know me and/or read this blog know I am not a believer in total sacrifice of my own health and life as a caregiver for Mom. The dying process has challenged me somewhat, in that I did expect I would want to be with her at the moment of her death. There is the question of whether she would want any of her kids here when she died that influenced my ease in leaving her from time to time. There is the pain of looking at her in this state that makes me need to leave sometimes. And my own health concerns me. My resting heart rate had been near or above 100 since Saturday, causing me to feel like I am having the longest hot flash ever recorded. When Mom was in distress and I could speak in a comforting way to her, I wanted to be here. But she has been unresponsive since midday Sunday. We talked to her and kept music in her ear, not knowing if anything got through. I am here today because concentrating on anything else is impossible. I feel stress about missing work, but I don’t trust my ability to perform well while waiting for the call that my mother died.

Nurses and I have recommended to her today that she let go. I just blasted Handel’s Messiah when it came on, inviting her to go out to that music that she loved so. It may seem inappropriate to wish strongly for a mother’s death. But if anyone has earned the peace of eternal rest, it is Bonnie Caldwell.

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